In an attempt to minimize discrimination against intersex or transgender people, the government of Australia announced on Thursday that it will now offer three gender options: male, female, and indeterminate.
The government said that transgender people who have not had sex-reassignment surgery will now be able to choose their new gender on the passport application form. Additionally, the process of applying for a passport designating the holder as intersex (neither male nor female) will be easier.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the changes, which took effect immediately, meant transgendered or intersex people would simply need a doctor's letter of support to obtain a passport in what they considered their true gender.
This amendment makes life easier and significantly reduces the administrative burden for sex- and gender-diverse people who want a passport that reflects their gender and physical appearance, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said.
The Australian Coalition for Equality celebrated the fact that people will now be able to travel overseas without being stopped by officials due to perceived discrepancies between one's passport and one's public identity.
From that point of view, it's a huge step forward, spokeswoman Martine Delaney told The Sydney Morning Herald. It's an incredible embarrassment to be a woman for years but still have a passport that says they're male, Delaney added.
Ms. Delaney told the paper that she knew a man who had lived as a woman for 25 years but was unable to have a sex change for medical reasons. She was questioned and detained by U.S. customs after officials became confused about her identity.
Previously, Australian citizens could choose either M or F, and were only able to make changes on their documentation following a sex-change surgery. Now, birth certificate alterations will not be necessary in order to have a new passport issued.
For those who nominate the indeterminate option, X will appear in the gender category of their passport.
In 2010, the U.S. made a similar change, eliminating the surgery requisite for transgender people. In the UK, people are also able to get travel documents that show a gender other than the one of their birth. Canada only allows this for post-surgical transgenders, while New Zealand relies on a family court to assess a person's gender.